(May 15, 2023) – Today, the United Conservative Party announced a series of measures aimed at improving public safety by addressing the effects of untreated mental health issues and the ongoing addiction crisis in Alberta.
While Alberta has emerged from the pandemic with the strongest job growth in the country, the province is grappling with the effects of untreated mental health issues and the ongoing addiction crisis that is facing jurisdictions all over North America. Far too often, this addiction crisis has led to social disorder and out-of-control violence.
“It is the number 1 job of a government to ensure that people are safe when they walk down the street,” said United Conservative Party Leader Danielle Smith. “Albertans shouldn’t have to look over their shoulders in their own communities.”
For four years, United Conservatives have focused on building a world class recovery-oriented system of care. Our UCP government added 10,000 fully-funded treatment spaces meaning that Alberta’s addiction treatment system now provides detox, treatment, and recovery services for up to 29,000 Albertans every year, fully-funded and free of charge. We also eliminated the $40 per day user fees the NDP charged Albertans to access publicly funded life-saving addiction treatment.
A re-elected United Conservative government will build over 700 new publicly-funded addition treatment beds across 11 new treatment centres called recovery communities. Four of these new recovery communities will be built in partnership with First Nations including the Kainai Nation, the Enoch Cree Nation, the Siksika Nation, and the Tsuut’ina Nation.
A United Conservative government will also address the lack of inpatient support for mental health treatment in Alberta by building five new 75-bed mental wellness centres. These new centres will add a total of 375 inpatient mental health beds across the province.
“Our UCP government is building a brand new addiction care system that is being recognized around the world.” said Smith. “And if re-elected, we will continue creating opportunities for those who are unwell to seek voluntary treatment with no barriers. But there are people who are suffering who are in imminent danger to themselves and others as a result of their drug use. We need a more assertive intervention to ensure they get better, to save their lives, and to keep our communities safe.”
To ensure those gripped by addiction get help, get healthy, and have the opportunity to have a new life, a re-elected United Conservative government will develop and pass the Compassionate Intervention Act.
The Act would allow for a family member, doctor, psychologist, or police officer to make a petition to a specially appointed non-criminal judge to issue a treatment order. The court would be able to divert an addict who is in imminent danger of causing harm to themselves or others to engage in treatment instead of jail.
Treatment orders would vary depending on the individual and their needs and circumstances and could include evidence-based medication treatment (Opioid Agonist Treatment or OAT), outpatient counseling, medical detox, inpatient addiction treatment, or attendance in an in-patient treatment program. The treatment order would provide the person with the best opportunity for recovery while ensuring communities are safe.
“If someone is in imminent danger of causing harm to themselves or others, we will do whatever we can to save their life and help them get better, but that begins with getting them out of harm’s way,” said Smith. “We need to ensure Albertans don’t have to worry about random acts of violence when they’re walking down the street or taking transit. This is about saving lives and keeping our communities safe.”
Rachel Notley and the NDP on the other hand have lost sight of what’s important and instead plan to provide free, taxpayer-funded drugs, perpetuating the cycle of addiction. They plan on putting supervised consumption sites in communities across Alberta and decriminalizing the deadly and dangerous drugs that are actively tearing Alberta families and communities apart.
In direct contrast, a re-elected United Conservative government will continue to focus on prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery and will do whatever it takes to keep all Albertans safe while treating those who are sick with care and compassion.
“The policies of the NDP are dangerous and destructive. But they don’t want to talk about their plan during this election,” said Smith, “The answer to addiction and public safety is not more drugs or looking the other way and hoping for the best. It’s stepping forward with compassion, intervention, treatment, and recovery while also having zero tolerance for actual crime.”
A re-elected United Conservative government will develop and pass the Compassionate Intervention Act to respond to the addiction crisis and save lives while keeping communities safe.
Alberta, along with jurisdictions across North America, is grappling with the effects of deadly and dangerous drug use caused by the illness of addiction. Far too often Albertans are losing their lives to overdose, and too often drug fueled random attacks are jeopardizing the safety of our communities. As part of a comprehensive public safety and community wellness plan, there must be an avenue to intervene when someone is a danger to themselves or others.
The Compassionate Intervention Act will provide an avenue for a community or family led intervention when someone is a danger to themselves or others as a result of their deadly and dangerous drug use. This compassionate intervention will keep people out of the criminal justice system while ensuring they get the treatment support they desperately need and keeping our communities safe.
The Act will allow a family member, doctor, or police officer to make a petition to family court for a treatment order. The treatment order would require that person to engage in treatment for their addiction and drug use to save their life and protect the safety of the community.
Treatment orders would vary depending on the individual and their needs and circumstances and could include evidence-based medication treatment (Opioid Agonist Treatment or OAT), outpatient counseling, medical detox, inpatient addiction treatment, recovery communities, etc. The treatment order would provide the person with the best opportunity for recovery while ensuring communities are safe.
This Act will provide an entirely non-criminal process to ensure safety and wellbeing and there would be no criminal record associated with any order under the Act.
Questions & Answers:
How can you assure Albertans that the powers in this Act will not be abused?
Any application for a treatment order would need to go before a judge and would only be for people who are a danger to themselves or others as a result of their drug use.
Are there any other jurisdictions that have some sort of a Compassionate Intervention Act?
Yes. Many states have similar intervention measures, though many of them fall short because they don’t have a significant amount of high-quality treatment programs available for clients. We are building the system so that everyone can access treatment. Voluntary care will remain our first priority, but we also need to help those who are a danger to themselves or others who wouldn’t otherwise get the treatment they need to save their life.
You seem to suggest there’s no age minimum or limit for who this Act could be used on, is that true – would it apply to adults and minors?
In Alberta we already have the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act (PChAD) which allows parents to get a court order for mandatory treatment. The Compassionate Intervention Act will expand this pathway for families and communities to intervene if someone is a danger to themselves or others beyond youth.
What will the threshold be to use the Act? What type of “danger to themselves or others” are you referring to?
Guidance would be provided within the act, but this determination would be made by a judge when the application for a treatment order is reviewed. Factors that would be considered could be past history of overdose, history of harm to others, and the likelihood of those things occurring in the future.
Can you clarify: the Act could be used as a means to force them into treatment?
If someone is a danger to themselves or others as a result of their use of deadly and dangerous drugs, we need to intervene to save their life and protect public safety. Treatment orders will ensure that people get the treatment they need through a compassionate non-criminal process that is focussed on providing treatment and recovery support to Albertans.
Does forced treatment work? Can you back that claim up?
The challenges of overdose and deteriorating public safety caused by deadly and dangerous drug use require community intervention. Most people with addiction face external pressure of some degree to enter treatment and pursue recovery. If someone is a danger to themselves or others we need to intervene and provide treatment and support for recovery. Voluntary treatment will continue to be our priority, but for some this is necessary. It’s more successful than doing nothing and waiting for them to die of an overdose or hurt someone else. We’ve also seen great success with treatment orders in drug courts and with many young people through the PChAD program. But at the end of the day it’s more successful than doing nothing and it’s better than the other ends of jails and death.
What do you say to people who claim that forced detox increases the risk of overdose upon release?
Simply providing detox is not enough. We need to use all the tools at our disposal, including evidence-based medication treatment which significantly reduces the risk of overdose. We also need to provide long-term treatment opportunities that give people an opportunity to make a significant change in their lives and set them up for success in life.